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Title:Writing against democracy: anarchist literature and the aporia of representation, 1880-1940
Author(s):Colson, Daniel
Director of Research:Nelson, Cary
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nelson, Cary
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Foote, Stephanie; Newcomb, Tim; Wald, Alan; Marsh, John E.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This dissertation proposes “anarchist literature” as both a generic classification and a methodological orientation toward the overlapping fields of American literature and democratic politics. By expanding the boundaries of both literature and anarchism, it offers an important supplement to accounts of American literature between the Civil War and WWII. The defining characteristic of anarchist “texts” is their conflicted relationship to government and representation. Late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American anarchists took as their object of critique U. S. democracy, a tenuously, yet aspiringly representative form of governance. As U. S. government moved unevenly toward more complete electoral representation, anarchists questioned the validity of all forms of state power, in ways ranging from the dramatic assassination of a sitting president to the subtle permeation of anti-government thought into a wide range of texts. This project argues that representative democracy is only the most obvious face of a more comprehensive “logic of representation”: a structuring desire to re-present—to make known the absent subjects of politics and literature—which during this period folded multiple registers of representation back into the nation and its governance. This logic produces the aporia of representation, a paradox that has obscured the era’s widespread fascination with anti-government politics. By recovering a fractured, yet sustained tradition of anarchist literature, this study reveals the difficulties inherent in writing against the American democratic ideal and the paradox of critiquing governmental representationality through representational literary forms: anarchism appears as a formal conflict within a range of discourses, exposing the sublimated political unrest produced by the nation’s incomplete democracy.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Daniel Colson
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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